7 Risks in Indie Games Production

Indie game production contains risks. The size and the odds of risks vary, and as a game producer, your job is to identify the potential risks and plan for the risks.

#1 – You
The most crucial part of the indie game production is you. This risk might have low propability to actually happen, but if this risk comes true then the consequences can be enormous. If you get a burn out, then the production will stop. There are at least three different ways to prepare and avoid the risk. First one is taking care of your health. Exercising and eating healthy food (pizza & coke are for programmers, not for game producers…) can have great impact. Besides getting in good shape it also can improve your motivation to work. One hour break walking outdoors can improve your energy to work inside. Another way to avoid risks is to remember to rest. Taking a day off, having breaks are good ways to charge your batteries. The third option is to take an insurance. If something happens at least you know you can get proper medication for illness.

#2 – Funding
The second risk is money: if you run out of money, then your business will die. Besides trying to sell more there are other ways to prepare for this risk. Part time jobs, or freelance jobs can generate some income. Saving and living frugally (but not in the expense of healthy food) are good ways to get better surviving propabilities. I also recommend checking out what governments can offer. There are programs that can help you to fund your international business. I’ve checked 2-3 programs and some of them can offer several hundreds euros each month while others can be bigger one-time funding opportunities – without need to pay the money back.

#3 – Team member leaves
This risk always exists. Even though the team member might be very trustworthy the external conditions might force him to discontinue working with you. This happened to me in Edoiki production and I managed the risk with good relationship with the programmer and simply adjusting the game time line. Contracts and NDAs can be useful in preparing for this risk.

#4 – Data losses
Data losses can be tremendous problem and making backups is essential to avoid the risk.

#5 – Time
One of the biggest factors in games production is time. What happens if the game comes out after the specified deadline? Will competitors get ahead of you? Preparing to the time risk can be difficult, but scheduling the game properly and planning the project properly can help in defeating the risk. Sometimes you might need to leave away some planned features just to make sure the project gets finished on time.

#6 – Quality
Besides time, the quality of the game is important. If you drop away some features to save time then you might avoid one risk, and get another one instead. Your project must have extra high quality. The game should be the best in its field. If your game is not good enough, then you might need to polish the game more to make it a really top notch product. This might mean balancing the quality with time and costs. Prototyping, internal and external testing and getting player feedback can help you to produce a high quality game.

#7 – Costs
Costs are the third parameter in the time-quality-costs triangle. In games production avoiding one risk might mean problems in some other factor. Plan for what you really need to buy and don’t purchase anyhing if you can survive without it. Of course purchasing equipment that adds yours and team’s productivity can be good a investment, but consider carefully on what to purchase. Project budget can get very high in little time.

There are risks in indie games production. Some of them might require planning, while some can be transferred or ignored without much effort. It’s game producer’s job to manage the risks.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Indie game producers gave total control of what the game is about, right? Are they the ones with the creative imaginations?

  2. @GBP: Yes, that’s actually a very big point (which is partially linked to risk #2). Your game has to bring money – and marketing is in the centre of success. Very good point.

  3. Would you consider Marketing or the more general term, exposure as an 8th risk factor?

    Without exposure of the game brand and feautures, all of the developers hard work would be undone. A product will never sell itself and running a blog or internet site does not guarentee exposure. Exposure is something you really need to work on, almost as much as the project itself.

    Being aware of basic marketing strategy will get you very far, and this strategy does not have to be a thorough understanding of the 4 or seven of how may other P’s there are. All one needs is a common sense approach.

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